Battle of Winceby
|Battle of Winceby |
|Part of the First English Civil War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Sir William Widdrington||Earl of Manchester, Oliver Cromwell|
|c. 2500-3000 horse||c. 3000 horse, c. 2000 foot|
|Casualties and losses|
|200-300 killed on the field, more in the pursuit; 800 prisoners||c. 20 killed|
During the summer of 1643, the Royalists laid plans to win the war by marching on London. However, before this could be contemplated, it would be necessary for them to defeat the Parliamentarian forces holding Kingston upon Hull and Plymouth; otherwise, as the Royalist forces moved on London, the garrisons of those two towns could sortie out and attack the Royalist rear areas.
While these sieges were underway, Charles I of England decided to make the best use of his time by reducing Gloucester, the one great fortress of Parliament in the west. Parliamentary forces relieved Gloucester on 5 September. The relieving army was bought to battle by Royalist forces in the First Battle of Newbury; it was a tactical draw but a strategic victory for the Parliamentarians as it reduced the likelihood of a Royalist attack on London.
Meanwhile, the second Royalist siege of Hull had commenced. The Eastern Association forces under the Earl of Manchester promptly moved up into Lincolnshire, the foot besieging King's Lynn (which surrendered on 16 September) while the horse rode into the northern part of the county to give a hand to the Fairfaxes. Fortunately for the Parliamentary Forces, the sea communications of Kingston upon Hull were open.
On 18 September, part of the cavalry in Hull was ferried over to Barton, and the rest under Sir Thomas Fairfax went by sea to Saltfleet a few days later, the whole joining Oliver Cromwell near Spilsby. In return, the old Lord Fairfax, who remained in Hull, received infantry reinforcements and a quantity of ammunition and stores from the Eastern Association. On 9 October Parliamentary forces under Manchester laid siege to Bolingbroke Castle.
On 9 October, Sir John Henderson, the Royalist governor of Newark-on-Trent, took a large body of 1,500 men, consisting predominantly of cavalry in 8 troops, with some dragoons and infantry, to relieve the garrison at Bolingbroke. After a sharp skirmish they took Horncastle from a small outlying detachment of Fairfax's force. The Parliamentary detachment reported back to the main army that the Royalists were moving towards them. The next morning leaving enough men to stop the Bolingbroke garrison from launching a sortie, Manchester arrayed his army on Kirkby Hill, overlooking Bolingbroke. Sometime between 12:00 and 14:00 hours he ordered a general advance towards Horncastle. The Parliamentary horse which moved faster than the infantry met the Royalists advancing in the opposite direction at Winceby. The field of battle was not ideal as the land falls away into sharp gullies on one side, but it was not bad enough to prohibit a battle. The two forces were roughly the same size and composition because, as with the Parliamentarians, the Royalist infantry was not present.
The ensuing battle lasted about half an hour. Cromwell feigned a retreat and lured the Royalists from a good defensive position onto flat ground. A small party of Parliamentarians advanced on the Royalists who discharged their weapons at them. Cromwell then led his main body of horse in a charge hoping to press home his charge before the Royalists had time to reload. But dismounted Royalist dragoons managed to fire a second volley, hitting several of the Ironsides. Cromwell had his horse shot from under him, apparently by Sir Ingram Hopton (who was himself killed in the subsequent fighting and is commemorated by a memorial canvas found above the font in St. Mary's Church, Horncastle. The canvas' inscription describes Cromwell as the 'Arch Rebel' and bears the incorrect date of October 6, 1643 for the Battle of Winceby), and was only able to rejoin the battle after he had secured another mount. Royalist cavalry under Sir William Savile counterattacked hitting Cromwell's right flank. They in turn were attacked in the flank by Fairfax's horse. In the resulting melee, the Royalists lost cohesion when the command by Savile to about face was taken to be an order to retreat and Savile's horse fled the battle. On the Roundhead's left wing the Cavaliers enjoyed greater initial success, but the collapse of the Royalist left and centre meant that Henderson had to retreat or face envelopment. A flanking attack by Cromwell's reformed cavalry was enough to cause the Royalists to flee the field in confusion back towards Newark.
In Horncastle, at a place now known as "slash hollow", some Royalists were killed or captured when they became trapped against a parish boundary gate that only opened one way (against them) and in their panic the press of men jammed it shut. For the remainder of the day the Roundheads hunted down Cavalier stragglers not stopping until dusk, which in October occurs in early evening, when they were recalled by Manchester. The Royalists lost about 300 men and the Parliamentarians about 20 with a further 60 wounded .
On the same day, Newcastle's army around Hull, which had suffered terribly from the hardships of continuous siege work, was attacked by the garrison. They were so severely handled that the siege of Hull was given up the next day.
Manchester left Bolingbroke Castle under siege and proceeded to retake Lincoln and Gainsborough. With all hope of relief gone the garrison of Bolingbroke Castle surrendered on 14 November. Thus Lincolnshire, which had been almost entirely in the Royalist Earl of Newcastle's hands before he was compelled to undertake the siege of Hull, was added, in fact as well as in name, to the Eastern Association.
- UK Battlefields Resource Centre - The Civil Wars - Lincolnshire Campaign 1643 - The Battle of Battle of Winceby
- Elliott, Ray (July 2001). St Mary's Horncastle - a church tour. The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Mary's, Horncastle.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press The text is based on the article GREAT REBELLION.
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